Syria: US oks Patriot missiles in Turkey, rebels advancing

Jihadists gain support, Moscow denies statements on regime end

14 December, 20:08

Syria: US oks Patriot missiles in Turkey, rebels advancing Syria: US oks Patriot missiles in Turkey, rebels advancing

(ANSAmed) - BEIRUT - With six Patriot missile batteries and just over a thousand soldiers, NATO is preparing to deploy in southern Turkey near the Syrian border. Meanwhile, Russia has today denied changing policy on the Syrian issue, thereby reiterating its support for Syrian president Bashar Al Assad. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has today paid a surprise visit to NATO's Turkish air base Incirlik, where it announced that it had signed the order to deploy two Patriot batteries and send about 400 men. Also today, the lower house of the German parliament has approved the deployment of the same number of batteries and the same number of soldiers as part of the NATO contingent. Last week the Dutch parliament also authorised sending 360 soldiers to run two Patriot batteries. The governments of the three countries - the only ones able to provide Patriot missiles within a NATO context - said that a few weeks would be needed before rendering the batteries and soldiers operative, and reiterated that the deployment would be purely defensive and would aim to protect the sovereignty of Turkey (a NATO country) from potential attacks from Syrian territory. In Syria, on the traditional Friday of Islamic prayer and anti-regime protests, demonstrations in the ''liberated'' zones or in those hit by repression were held under the slogan ''The Only Terrorism in Syria is Assad's Terrorism. We are all Jabhat Al Nusra'', in reference to the jihadist group of rebels operating in the northern part of the country and in the region around Damascus. On December 20, the US State Department listed Jabhat Al Nusra as an international terrorist organisation.

However, activists and rebels have once again today stood by the fundamentalists, accusing the US of not intervening to support the population suffering under the brutal repression and of having banned the most combative and effective wing of the ''resistance''. Bearing witness to the growing radicalisation of the conflict along confessional lines, an amateur video (the authenticity of which cannot be verified) shows some alleged rebels in the north-western Idlib region setting fire to a husayiniyya, a place for Shias to gather for religious and social purposes.

Shias have long been considered by fundamentalist rebels ''accomplices'' of the regime in Damascus, allied with Iran.

Like the Islamic Republic of Iran, Russia also supports President Assad and has today rectified statements made by Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who had referred to a possible victory by the rebels in Syria.

''In Syria there is no alternative to a political solution,'' a spokesman for the Russian ministry said, noting that Bogdanov ''has not yet issued any statements or given special interviews'', and that the statements he had reportedly made had come ''during a debate in which he was quoting opposition statements''. From Moscow, statements have also come from the so-called ''domestic opposition'' tolerated by the regime, by way of Qadri Jamil (at times called the Deputy Prime Minister by the Damascus regime, at times the head of the opposition). Jamil reiterated the need to start ''national dialogue'' as soon as possible between the two sides. Meanwhile, according to the Local Coordinating Committees of anti-regime activists, 62 more people have been killed today in Syria, including five women and three children. The region hit the worst was Damascus, with 32 dead. However, the number of those killed among government forces is not yet known. State-run media have not been reporting the figures for months. (ANSAmed).

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